Inside Streaming - January 1st, 2017

Inside Streaming (Jan 3rd, 2017)


There are really two kinds of Werner Herzog documentaries: The kind that relate a specific narrative or discuss about an isolated event, and the kind where the filmmaker just plunges himself into an interesting world or environment and makes observations.

"Lo and Behold" is decidedly in the latter camp, not so much concerned with looking at the history of the internet, as the Netflix abstract promises, nor with relating any kind of linear, easy-to-describe story about modern communication technology. Instead, Herzog - best known for narrative films like "Aguirre: The Wrath of God" and "Rescue Dawn," as well as the beloved documentary "Grizzly Man" - meets with a lot of internet pioneers, entrepreneurs, engineers, hackers, biologists, radio astronomers and others, and talks about the future with them.

You do get a lot of historical insights from watching the film, of course. Herzog speaks to Leonard Kleinrock in the actual UCLA lab where the first internet node was switched on. We watch Vint Cerf receive his Presidential Medal of Freedom. Kevin Mitnick tells the story of how he knew the FBI was going to raid his home the day before they arrived, so he put donuts in the fridge for them.

But Herzog's really more interested in sitting down with geniuses and throwing out head-scratchers to see how they react than he is in making the sort of film a teacher could legitimately screen on the last day of class. (In one utterly fascinating, almost chilling, excerpt, Herzog asks Elon Musk if he ever has good, positive dreams, and the Space X and Tesla founder pauses, thinks for a long time and concludes that he only ever remembers his nightmares.)

These are the best moments in the film, when it transcends being yet another catalogue of the impressiveness of 2016 tech and becomes a consideration of how humanity still fits into a world of machines, lasers, satellites and computers. My favorite moment comes after Herzog watches an engineer show off his soccer-playing robots, especially his pride and joy, Robot 8. It basically looks like an upturned bucket with some paper dots on top and a flipper.

"Do you love him?" Herzog asks about Robot 8? The engineer doesn't pause. "We love him," he responds.

TITLE: "Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World"
RUNTIME: 98 Minutes
GENRE: Documentary


INTO THE INFERNO: Also from last year, this new-to-Netflix feature length doc investigates volcanoes and how humans view and interact with them. It features dramatic, up close footage of eruptions and lava flows.

INTO THE ABYSS: One of Herzog's more narrative, single-story docs, this harrowing film includes interviews with convicted murderer Michael Perry, some of which were conducted only a week before his execution in 2010. It's on Netflix.

CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS: One of Herzog's most strange and impressionistic non-fiction films was this examination, originally screened in 3D, of France's Chauvet Cave, which contains the oldest known human-painted images on Earth. It's on Netflix and YouTube, sadly, in 2D only.

ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD: Herzog traveled to Antarctica, specifically to the McMurdo Station research center, and the film follows him on a few different adventures, traveling around with researchers and scientists, taking a look at what they do and what they’re there to learn. It's on Netflix.

LITTLE DIETER NEEDS TO FLY: This emotional doc from 1998 tells the story of Dieter Dengler, a Navy pilot taken prisoner in Laos during the Vietnam War who escaped captivity. (Herzog later made the feature film "Rescue Dawn" based on the same incident.) The film is available on YouTube and Netflix.

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